Caviar of the South


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If you live in the south, chances are you’re more than familiar with pimento cheese.  If you’re not familiar, Wikipedia describes it here as “a common food preparation in the Southern United States, a spread or relish made with cheese. It is affectionately known as “The caviar of the South.” The basic recipe has few ingredients: sharp cheddar cheese or processed cheese (such as Velveeta or American cheese), mayonnaise, pimentos, salt and pepper, blended to either a smooth or chunky paste. Regional ingredients include cream cheese, Louisiana-style hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, paprika, jalapeños, onions, garlic, and dill pickles.”  They are a signature item at the Masters Tournament and a favorite of “Better Call Saul” and “Breaking Bad” character Mike Ehrmantraut (one of the best fictional characters of all time).

Despite my mother being from the south, I never really ate pimento cheese growing up (mom?…).  I do love me some pimento cheese, though, and I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t like it.  I can’ remember exactly when I was introduced to this delicacy, although I’m pretty sure my “faux” Aunt Lisa made it at our biannual family reunions at Gulf Shores and I was probably too picky to try it.  Since moving to the south, however, I have had it in many forms: on a sandwich, on a grilled sandwich, on a burger (one of my faves), as fondu and as a regular dip.  

Personally, I prefer some batches over others.  Specifically, I prefer recipes which minimize the addition of mayonnaise.  I’m not a big fan of the condiment (though I do like aolis) and the recipes I’ve really liked have, to my knowledge, used sour cream or cream cheese and reduced the amount of mayo used.  I also prefer varieties which use cheddar rather than imitation cheese product and I prefer it chunky.  The following recipe, which my friend Tara shared with me recently (and claims to be the one from The Masters), fits all of those qualities:

Pimento Cheese


1/4 cup cream cheese, room temperature (I used pre-whipped cream cheese and increased the amount to just under 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream (I used Greek yogurt because I pretty much always sub this for sour cream.  It tastes exactly the same and is much healthier!  Plus it tastes better as a sour cream substitute than by itself, even with fruit added.  It’s SO sour!)

1/4 tsp garlic salt

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup diced pimentos


Whip cream cheese until smooth. Add in mayonnaise, sour cream, and garlic salt. Whip until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes, or until ready to serve.  Eat with crackers or on a sandwich.  

 I recently purchased a food processor with a slicing/shredding blade and shredded my cheese fresh. It tastes so much better this way and takes about 5 seconds! Also it’s pretty fun.

This is a great dip, at all times, but especially on a hot day.  I’d never heard of using hot sauce until I researched pimento cheese for this blog post and that sounds so good!  Maybe on a Triscuit with some Frank’s buffalo sauce…mmmmm…  


Whole 18


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Some of you may have noted that, in a previous post, I mentioned doing a loose version of Whole 30.  I first heard about this eating plan when Dr. Matthews’s cousin, Lisa, talked about it on her blog.  My initial reaction was, “No way.”  I mean, it sounded great for folks who wanted to lose a lot of weight or were having serious digestive problems, but I never thought I could handle even getting remotely close to this level of restriction.  For those of you who’re unfamiliar, Whole 30 involves cutting out the following for 30 days:

  • Dairy
  • Legumes (soy, peas)
  • Sugar (any and all added sugar, including honey or other carlorie-free sweeteners)
  • Alcohol
  • Grains (i.e., bread, pasta, rice, etc.)

The purpose, as I understand it, is to do this for 30 days, then slowly reintroduce these food groups to see which, if any, are causing negative reactions/digestive issues.  My SIL told me she and my BIL had been doing it with a group from her work and that she’d felt “amazing” and the recipes they’d found were really good.  She’d also lost a good amount of her baby weight within the first two weeks.  To be 100% honest, I wanted to lose weight.  Not a ton, but just the last of what I’d gained during pregnancy.  Counting calories had been pretty much miserable and only somewhat effective.  I was desperate.

Another factor leading me to believe I might be able to abide by these restrictions is a little gadget called a spiralizer.  My MIL got me this one for my birthday, and I love it.  (Side note: I also tried the Paderno, which is the most popular spiralizer on the market, and was less than impressed.  The one I got is vertical vs horizontal, so gravity works with you and not against you.  Then the spiralizer food empties into a tray at the bottom.  With the Paderno, you have to use a really low dish or the shelf on the device will push it out of the way and your food goes everywhere.) I love me some zoodles and thought, if I can eat meat and eggs and nuts and fruit and veggies and zoodles, how hard could this be?

The answer: very.  

#1, this diet is very time-consuming.  Which wasn’t a huge issue for me, as a SAHM with one child who is old enough to occupy herself while I clean, chop, slice, spiralize and essentially spend half my day in the kitchen (poor Natalie!).

#2, I was so. hungry.  I ate huge bowls full of fruit, all the eggs and bacon and avocado I could stomach.  I only got significantly full once, after eating a huge steak and a giant pile of chunky guacamole salad.

#3, I was tired.  My energy levels felt low and I was lethargic for at least a week and a half before my body adjusted, although it eventually did.  

#4, I was bloated.  All the time.  I think all the fruits and veggies in my diet took a toll on my digestive tract.  Which, for the record, was fine before I started this diet!

So, when I say I did a “loose” version of Whole 30, that means I was about 80-85% compliant with the diet.  On occasion I would have a glass of wine (which is a significant decrease from my usual one glass a day) and there were a handful of “cheat” meals involved.  Also, I only did it for 18 days, since we were going on vacation to a family reunion at the beach, where it was virtually impossible to eat this way and not drink alcohol.  Trust me on this one.  However, I was pretty proud of myself and surprised that I was able to maintain this style of eating for even that length of time.  I did enjoy some delicious meals and eventually did feel pretty good, if not as “awesome” as the aforementioned SIL.  Here is one of the recipes I really liked: 

Thai Minced Chicken


1 lb ground chicken breast

2 tbsp coconut oil (for sauteing use)

-Flavor layer 1 – 

3 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 ½ tbsp grated ginger

2 tbsp fresh lemon zest 

1 large red chili pepper, finely chopped & remove seeds (I use fresno red chili pepper)

-Flavor layer 2 –

1 ½ tbsp fish sauce (Whole30 compliant). (I actually wasn’t able to find “compliant” fish sauce, so this was the one ingredient I cheated on)

1 lime juice

2 tbsp lime zest

1 tbsp coconut aminos (this is a soy sauce alternative I found at Whole Foods)

Pinch of sea salt

-Flavor layer 3 –

Handful of chopped cilantro & mint leaves (I subbed basil for mint)

1 scallion, chopped (I omitted this because we were about to go out of town and I knew I wouldn’t use the rest)


Heat 2 tbsp coconut oil over high heat. When hot, add ingredients under Flavor layer 1. Add a small pinch of salt and stir-fry for 2 -3 mins until golden brown but not burned.

Add ground chicken. Stir-fry until the meat is completely cooked through. Season with a small pinch of salt.

Add ingredients under Flavor layer 2. Give it a quick stir (about 5-10 sec.) then turn off the heat. Stir-in ingredients under Flavor layer 3. 

Mix everything well and taste and see if more lime juice is needed. Serve w/ cold butter lettuce.  (We just had it by itself topped with toasted sesame seeds, which I added after I took the photo but were an amazing addition!  You could also serve this over cauliflower rice if you’re doing Whole 30 or regular rice if you’re not.)

Ingredients prepped

The photo on the website where I got this recipe looks way better. This one does it no justice!

If you’re ever interested in trying Whole 30 or just want to know what the heck I ate the whole time, I’m happy to share ideas for snacks and meals!  Just shoot me a message.  Word to the wise, however- when you start reintroducing regular food to your diet, DO NOT DO SO ALL AT ONCE!  In other words, don’t eat like you’re on vacation like I did.  You may be spending more time in the bathroom than on the beach  😳


Baby, baby, baby



My current favorite photo of NattyMatt

My daughter has given me the gift of being a baby. She hasn’t been worriedly delayed in any of her milestones, but she’s taken her time with most of them. She didn’t get a tooth till 9 months, crawl till 10, that kind of thing. Occasionally it’s frustrating, like when people innocently ask, “Is she walking yet? Is she talking?” etc. I feel like I’m letting them down and exposing her when I say no, not quite yet. But most of me is glad she takes her time. I get to savor her progress and the “baby” stage for longer. 
My daughter is also teeny tiny. I’m talking 1st percentile. And, for better or worse, she is quite attached to her father and me. Especially me. Knowing what I know about older kids and teenagers and how much they push their mothers away in the quest for independence, I’ll take it. She is attached and cuddly and wants to be held or touching me in some way about 75% of the time. 

People say, “Treasure this time now, it goes by so fast.” And I do. I actually enter my sleeping child’s room every night before I go to bed to put her blanket on her (I realize this is somewhat insane, but pretty much by that point I miss her). And if she wakes up, I scoop her up and hold her and rock her until she’s asleep again. It doesn’t take long. But I treasure every second. She’s starting to walk now and it would seem our “baby” days are numbered. 

The drunken baby walk

Club Frommage J-M


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My apologies for the extended absence!  We’ve been traveling a lot this summer and it’s been so stinkin hot I’ve been too worn out to write during my free time.  I’ve also been experimenting with a loose version of the Whole 30 Program, whose meals are time-consuming enough without photographing and documenting the process.  Not to mention I’ve felt low-energy while adjusting to the lack of carbs, dairy, and my beloved wine.  I am making a mostly “Whole 30 compliant” meal tonight, though, and may post about that one if it turns out as delicious as it sounds.  Most of the meals I’ve made have actually been pretty tasty.

Anyway, on to the cheese!  For those of you who are new to the blog, my cousin-in-law, Kim, brother-in-law, Matthew and I started a cheese club a while back where we go through the alphabet and try cheeses starting with each of the letters, in order.  We also have assorted groupies (AKA family members) who tag along in our cheesepeditions.  I post our interpretations of the cheese smells and tastes, then the “real” definition from  

We skipped “I” this time because we couldn’t find an “I” cheese, although I do know of one (ibierco) and we hope to find some for our next meeting of the cheese heads.  

Our description:

“Smells like cheese”

“Smells like a swissy provolone”

Tasted like a mild Swiss.  Kind of dry.  Like Swiss, but better.

Official description:

Jarlsberg is a mild, semi-soft cow’s milk cheese of Norwegian origin. Created by Anders Larsen Bakke, it resembles a Swiss Emmental with distinctive, open and irregular ‘eyes’. Many a times Jarlsberg is marketed as a Swiss cheese because of its characteristics, though it tends to be sweeter and stronger than Emmentaler.

Beneath the yellow-wax rind of Jarlsberg is a semi-firm yellow interior that is buttery, rich in texture with a mild, nutty flavour. It is an all-purpose cheese, good for cooking as well eating as a snack. Since the cheese melts so well, Jarlsberg tastes delicious on sandwiches, fondues, quiches and on hot dishes. The versatility of the cheese is appreciated well beyond the Scandinavian world in US, UK and Europe.


Our description:

Smell: “A touch of foot”

Tasted better than it smelled.  Creamy.  Reminiscent of a sharp cheddar or Havarti.  

Official description:

Kasseri is a traditional, Greek-Turkish cheese made from unpasteurised sheep milk with no more than 20% goat’s milk mixed in. It is a springy-textured, white crust, stringy cheese belonging to the pasta filata family like Provolone or Muenster. To obtain the correct texture and flavour, the cheese needs to be matured for a minimum of four months. It is used as a substitute to the famous mozzarella by many American consumers.

The cheese also competes against another famous Greek cheese; Feta. Kasseri is preferred by connoisseurs who like full flavoured cheeses. A bite of Kasseri will enrich your palate with exciting salty flavours and pungent odor. But interestingly, it soon leaves behind a sweet aftertaste. This is because of the high use of sheep’s milk.

Pale yellow in colour, Kasseri’s mild, palatable, buttery taste makes it an excellent table cheese. It contains a fat content of anywhere between 25% – 45%. When served at room temperature, it can be paired with omelets, sandwiches or used as a pastry cheese.


So, I think a little background is called for here.  Members of Cheese Club were highly skeptical about trying this cheese.  I was secretly hoping we would have to even though I didn’t want to because it felt like a very “cheese clubby” thing to do.  Plus, it’s obviously a well-known cheese and I was curious what all the hype was about.  I’ve even had one person tell me they actually enjoy it and eat it with their German grandmother-in-law.  

Pictured is my brother-in-law cutting the cheese (heehee).  If you’re thinking the gas mask is bit much, you’ve clearly never smelled Limburger cheese before. 

Our description:

“Smells like abcess” (this from Dr. Matthews, who would know)

“It’s not good”

Tasted of old garbage can or raw sewage.  I am ashamed (but not sorry) to admit I spit it out.  Hell, after smelling it, ya’ll are lucky I put that crap in my mouth at all!  My mother-in-law, one of the most open minded people I know when it comes to food, had the nicest thing to say: “It got better as I ate it.”  However, I did not see her eat any more and it got thrown away without further investigation.  My mother wouldn’t even try it (party pooper!😉 )

Official description:

Limburger is a semi-soft, washed rind cheese that originated in the historical Duchy of Limburg, now divided among three countries; Germany, Belgium and Netherlands. The cheese is popularly known for its stinky aroma which has been compared to foot odor. Today, most of the cheese is exclusively made in Germany, making them the sole producers in Europe.

Artisanal cheese makers prepare this cheese from pasteurised cow’s milk sourced from local, organic farms. As a result, the flavour of the cheese is mild despite the stinky aroma.

The exterior of the cheese is covered with a thin pale, orange-brown rind, an effect of regular washings.

In the initial month of ripening, Limburger is firmer and more crumbly, but starts to become chalky and soft at the end of six weeks. After two months, the cheese is much smoother and creamy. At three months, Limburger finally acquires the infamous aroma due to smear-ripening with solutions of bacteria.

The interior is a soft and yielding, straw-coloured pate that becomes runnier with age. This cheese has a significant grassy and mushroomy taste underlined by delicate tang at the end.

Limburger goes well with Belgian style ales and icy cold bock beer. It tastes best when it is served between two slices of dark rye bread along with a slice of onion.
As you can see, our interpretation varied immensely from the one given on  



Our description:

Smelled like a sharp cheddar.  Pasty, chalky texture.  Dry.  Would be good melted with salsa.  This was my favorite of the bunch this time.  I believe we had the “viejo” variety.  

Official description:

The Manchego is produced in the La Mancha region of Spain, which is also home to Don Quixote. It is made from unpasteurised sheep’s milk. It is one of the popular cheeses from Spain, made from sheep’s milk. It also comes under the PDO guidelines.

The traditional use of grass moulds leaves a distinctive, characteristic zigzag pattern on the Manchego cheese. Authentic Manchego is only made from the Manchego sheep’s milk. Manchego cheese is made from both pasteurised and unpasteurised milk. The farmhouse version is produced from unpasteurised milk while the industrial version is produced from pasteurised milk.

The rind is inedible with a distinctive, traditional herringbone basket weave pattern, pressed on it. A typical ear wheat pattern is pressed onto the top and bottom wheels of the cheese. There are specific differences in Manchego cheeses, depending on their aging period.

Semi Curado – Young Manchego cheese is aged around 3 months are supple and moist. The flavour is fruity, grass, hay with a tangy note.
Curado – Manchego cheese aged for 6 months acquires a caramel and nutty flavour. It has distinct acidity.

Viejo – Manchego cheese aged for a year becomes crumbly in texture while the interior of the cheese acquires a butterscotch colour. It has a sweet, lingering taste.

Manchego cheeses are best paired with a sherry. Cheeses similar to Manchego are called ‘Machego like cheeses’, but the producers cannot legally name the cheese as Manchego.

This celebrated cheese has won gold and silver award at the 2014 World Cheese Awards.


Until next time, cheese lovers!

Comfort food favorites


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What’s your favorite food?  I’d like to be fancy and say something like sushi or an exciting Thai dish, but if I’m being honest, it’s macaroni and cheese.  Hands down.  It was all I wanted when I went through a depression and had no appetite.  I ate it quite frequently while pregnant and at all hours while nursing.  I’m not too too picky about it – I’ll eat Kraft (jazzed up, of course) and I love Stouffers or most any frozen variety, but there are a few caveats to that.  I’m not a fan of American or Velveeta cheeses, nor do I prefer my mac ‘n’ cheese baked and all dried out.  And I don’t have much use for the bread crumb situation many find appealing atop the baked variety, either.  But the good old fashioned recipe my mom makes (or the version I’m about to share, which is hers on steroids) is the (I swore I’d never use that term, but I keep hearing it so it’s probably making a come-back).  

This macaroni and cheese recipe, which I’ve adapted from the one linked, has twice as much cheese and milk (and whole, rather than 2%), heavy cream and a million more calories than my mom’s.  But worth it.  Go big or go the heck home, I say.

The Best Macaroni and Cheese Ever


  • 1 pound dried elbow macaroni (I got crazy and used Cavatappi because I like to live on the edge)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream (I threw in the whole 1/2 pint)
  • 16 ounces coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar (about 6 cups) (normally, I’d prefer to grate the cheese myself, as I find that does make a difference in taste.  I went simple this time, though, and got the pre-shredded stuff)
  • 2 ounces grated Parmesan (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper*
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons mustard powder


Set a large, covered pot of salted water over high heat to boil.  Add macaroni to boiling salted water and cook until just al dente (avoid overcooking). Drain macaroni and set aside. In a large wide pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Sprinkle flour over butter, whisking to incorporate and make a roux. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (I like to use a flat whisk), until roux is light golden, about 4 minutes. Gradually pour in milk and cream, whisking constantly to incorporate and make a béchamel sauce. Raise heat to medium-high and bring sauce to a low boil, whisking constantly. Reduce to a simmer, whisking occasionally, and cook until béchamel sauce is thick and coats the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes more.

Add the salt, pepper, mustard powder, and Parmesan cheese. Add the cheddar in three batches, whisking until each addition is completely melted before adding more. Remove from heat.

Add the drained macaroni to the pot with the cheese sauce and stir well to coat. 

Let’s be honest, pasta is good even before the sauce is added!

Whisking the bechamel

*According to, “white pepper tastes hotter than black but is less complex, with fewer flavor notes.  While black pepper is more common in American kitchens, using white pepper in light-colored dishes for aesthetic reasons (such as white sauces and mashed potatoes) is a tradition that originated in French cookery.  However, white pepper is also used in some cuisines for its specific flavor.”  It seems like, in our case, it may have been chosen for its aesthetic qualities.  I’d say you can use either.  

That’s all for now!  I will probably be absent for a long time again, due to traveling and enjoying the summer.  Although, stay tuned!  My MIL just ordered a spiralizer and if I remember to take photos I will post about a meal we make while Natalie and I are visiting her later this month.  Mmmmm veggies…

Make this, thank me later


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I don’t know how many times I’ve posted about pulled pork.  Maybe one, maybe more than one.  I’m too lazy to go back and check.  But I want you to throw away all those copies you printed of the previous pulled pork recipes I’ve posted.  IN THE GARBAGE! This is the only pulled pork recipe you’ll ever need.  Well, unless you need an Asian flavor.  Or BBQ.  But for tacos, this is IT.  I had every single spice needed in the cabinet already.  No chopping (unless you garnish with veggies which require it) and it calls for a smaller piece of meat, which is nice because then you’re not shredding forever.  This meat turned out to be the most tender pork I’ve ever slow cooked and the flavor was unforgettable.

Slow Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork


4 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp kosher salt (if using regular table salt, only use 2 teaspoons)

1 Tbsp brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon ground oregano

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Scant pinch of ground cloves (even though this recipe called for only a small amount of cloves and cinnamon, I felt like I could really taste it in the meat in the best of ways)

The roast:

3 1/2 pound boneless pork shoulder roast

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

Serve with:

Sliced avocado

Sliced radishes (we did not try it with radishes this time but we do love radishes!)

Thinly sliced cabbage (I like red cabbage OK, which is what I used for the first few tacos, but red onions were a much better complement.  They had more crunch and great flavor)

Warm tortillas, corn or flour (I used corn since I’ve read they’re a little healthier and warmed them in a non-stick pan on medium for about a minute on each side just before putting the tacos together)

Fresh squeezed lime juice

Salsa (We used medium Pace chunky, but I think pico de gallo would go so much better with these flavours)

Sriracha, duh!

We also used some freshly shredded white cheddar and Greek yogurt in place of sour cream

I forgot to take this pic before making the recipe, so, not pictured: pork shoulder, salsa, cheese, greek yogurt


1 Whisk together the rub ingredients in a small bowl.

2 If the roast is tied up with butcher string, untie it. Pat the roast dry with paper towels. Rub the spice mix into the roast all over, reserving any leftover spice mix for later. Let sit at room temperature at least one hour or chill overnight. (I chilled overnight)

3 Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan on medium high heat. (If you are using a slow cooker with a removable container that can be used on the stovetop, use that, otherwise use a separate pan.) Place the roast in the pan and brown on all sides. (I have never done this before slow cooking and it may well be the best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten about slow cooking.  I’m not sure if this was the magic that made this such an amazing recipe, but just in case I am going to do this a lot more often, and certainly every time I make this one! I just did a few minutes on each side)

4 Place the roast in a slow cooker, and add any reserved spice rub. Cook on the low setting for 6 to 10 hours, until the pork is fall apart tender. (I believe I did about 8)

5 Remove the roast from the slow cooker and place on a cutting board. Cut into large chunks. Then use two forks to pull the meat apart into bite sized shreds. Return the shreds to the slow cooker and toss to coat with the juice from the roast. (Alternatively you can just shred the roast with two forks in the slow cooker itself.)

Serve with warm tortillas, avocados, shredded cabbage, sliced radishes, cilantro, and a splash of lime juice or salsa.

I was concerned that this might turn out dry, as I don’t believe I have ever made anything in the slow cooker without any additional liquid.  However, apparently pork shoulder is fatty enough that it creates its own liquid and it is absolute perfection.  I also like that I didn’t have to strain the meat out of the excess liquid every time I wanted to use it.

You’re welcome :-) 


Being Natalie’s Mama

Now that I’ve had 9 months to adjust, I thought I’d share some thoughts about being home with my baby girl:

I love being a stay at home mom. I know it’s not for everyone, and for some people it’s not an option. I feel like I’m really in my element, as I enjoy “keeping house,” running errands and cooking (obviously). I love being a stay at home mom, but it wasn’t always that way.

I remember, when I first became a stay at home mom, I would wake up in the morning and feel a little lost. My life now had more purpose than ever before, but it lacked structure. And, with the ever-changing needs and abilities (read:sleeping abilities) of a newborn, it lacked predictability. The sound of my child crying in the night sent shock waves of anxiety coursing through my body. It felt like an electrical current and filled me with what can only be described as panic, but was probably really dread over having to get up again after only an hour or two of sleep. As my sister said, having a newborn is “not for the weak.”

Breastfeeding an “inefficient nurser” had me feeling chained to a sedentary lifestyle, which made me feel lethargic and unproductive. My daughter was also up frequently during the night to eat and slept best from 5-11am. Therefore I slept best from 5-11am. This added to feelings of guilt that I was being lazy and should be getting up early to exercise and do household chores (lol, right?). In hindsight, this was probably related to some post partum depression and anxiety. Dr. Matthews was also very helpful with nighttime duties and still had to get up early for work, which added to my guilt. He tried to convince me that I had no reason to feel guilty and that I was doing a great job, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was always doing something wrong.

Natalie getting into a routine has helped tremendously, as did ceasing breastfeeding (and of course, sleep). But those things took months. And those months seemed to go by very slowly. Time has sped up considerably since then and I am loving this phase of baby (6 months through our current 9 month status). I have an amazing local support system and family is always available by phone. I have one of the most supportive husbands I know. I have such a sweet, silly, happy and pure-hearted baby girl. I am so happy.


Natalie helping mama with the chores

Keeping it simple, part II


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The title of today’s post is in reference to this post, where I talk about keeping it simple in order to spend more time with this sweet face:


Shameless showing off of Natalie and me at my sister’s wedding last month

Today, I have two recipes to share.  The downside is that I didn’t take any photos, as I didn’t antipate posting about them, but they turned out so delicious and were so cheap and easy that I had to share.  

Hearty black bean soup


  • 1 lb ground turkey, chicken or beef (I meant to get turkey but accidentally picked up ground chicken and it worked just fine)
  • Chili garlic sauce, to taste* (See note below)
  • 1 carton black bean soup (I used Trader Joe’s and it was AMAZING)
  • 1 jar Cowboy Caviar (for those of you not ITK (in the know), this is a delicious corn and black bean salsa sold at Trader Joe’s.  I was not ITK until I sampled it with their black bean soup recently, which is where I was inspired to make this recipe)
  • Optional: sriracha, sour cream and shredded cheddar to top


Brown meat in a small amount of oil with chili garlic sauce.  Drain off some of the fat.  Add soup and caviar and simmer for about 10 minutes on medium, stirring occasionally.  Top with sriracha, sour cream and shredded cheddar.  Eat with tortilla chips, over rice or by itself.  

This was one of the simplest and most delicious things I’ve made in a long time.  And perfect for those chilly winter days!


Meatball sandies


  • Frozen cocktail meatballs
  • Chili garlic sauce, to taste (can you tell I’m really into this stuff lately?)
  • Parmesan cheese, to taste
  • Jar marinara sauce (we usually get Trader Joe’s, but had a jar of Harris Teeter’s tomato basil sauce and it was so. good.)
  • Whatever bread you have lying around (buns, rolls, sandwich bread, whatever.  I’m sure hoagie bread or hotdog buns would work best in order to keep your meatballs from flying out, but we always have left over hamburger buns from other meals lying around that I wanted to use up)
  • Fresh mozzarella, sliced


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook meatballs with marinara sauce, chili garlic sauce and Parmesan cheese over medium heat until cooked through, about 20-25 minutes, stirring often.  Line cookie sheet with aluminum foil and toast bread in oven until lightly browned.  Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.  Add desired number of meatballs to bread and top with sliced mozzarella.  Return to oven (without the top part of the bun, if using sliced bread or hamburger buns).  Keep an eye on the food and remove from oven when cheese is melted and starting to bubble.  Top with your other slice of bread and enjoy!

Maybe next time I make them I’ll take photos and add them to this post. Although, black bean soup never looks appetizing and I’m pretty sure you all know what a meatball sandwich looks like🙂

*I’ve had a couple people ask me about chili garlic sauce.  And I’ve been meaning to add an addendum/warning about it anyway, so here ya go:

This is chili garlic sauce.  It’s sold in all grocery stores that I’m aware of, in the international section with the sriracha (it’s made by the same company and is actually the base of sriracha – there’s a sriracha documentary on Amazon Prime if you’re really interested).  The warning part is that it’s very spicy.  How spicy, I can not be trusted to say- according to my friend Valerie, I have a poor sense of what is spicy and what is not.  I’d give it a *very* small sample to see where your tastes lie.  I add it to chili, fried rice, pasta, eggs, pretty much anything.

Club Frommage, E-H



It’s been nine whole months since the members of Cheese Club have been together (or, as Dr. Matthews re-dubbed it, The Greater Cheese Society of North America).  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out this post.  Alas, the holidays brought us back together and we resumed our quest to try new cheeses by going through the alphabet.  This time we explored letters E-H, and were not held back by this former pregnant lady’s demands for pasteurization.  I am also going to include the grocery store’s description of each cheese, as some of them were particularly entertaining and/or offered additional detail.

Espresso Bellavitano


Our description:


Resembles a sharp parmesan, or as some stated, an “improved” parmesan.  This cheese was described as smooth and mellow and was a favorite amongst many members and ad-hoc members.  Dr. Matthews and my bro-in-law, Matthew, noted it was a favorite in particular.  The flavor from the espresso grinds along the rind was very pronounced and unique.

Grocery store description:

Need an eye opener?  This is the cheese for you.  Aged Bellavitano, sweet and caramelly, is covered in finely ground freshly roasted espresso.  So good, you’ll want to run to Wisconsin to get more!

Official description:

Espresso Bellavitano is a unique Cheddar-Parmesan inspired Italian farmstead cow’s cheese rubbed with fresh ground Italian roast espresso beans. The sweet, slightly smoky, roasted flavours of an espresso coffee complements the creamy and sweet BellaVitano. A Sartori-family original, this gourmet cheese is a celebrated gold medal winner at the 2014 World Cheese Awards. This artisan cheese tastes delicious with sweet pastries, nuts, bagels, chocolate and dried apricots.

Fontina Fontal


Our description:

Salty, buttery, creamy, mild and soft.  Would taste good melted.  This was my favorite from our second tasting session.  I wasn’t able to find this particular cheese on so I just took the description from regular fontina.

Grocery store description:

Wanted: young, mild cheese seeks sandwich, pizza or snack buddy with anyone up for a good time.  A little dense – but flexible, sweet and easygoing.  Will stop the world to melt with you.  (This was probably also my favorite description🙂 )

Official description:

Fontina is a swedish style cheese made by Emmi Roth USA. Fontina is a hard cheese which has a creamy texture and a subtle tart flavour characterized by a mild yeasty finish. It melts beautifully which makes it ideal for Pizzas, flatbreads, lasagnas, quesadillas.

*Of note:There are many Fontina cheeses made with alternative names such as “Fontinella”, “Fontal”, and “Fontella” 

Goat Gouda


Our description:

This cheese had a mild scent.  It was salty and a little sharp with strong flavor.  Definitely less creamy than original goat cheese.  We thought that it’d be good on a salad and better on something than by itself.  Or perhaps coated in sesame seeds and fried, as regular goat cheese is sometimes served.  It should be noted that my cousin, Kim, who does not normally enjoy goat cheese, still did not like it in this form.

Grocery store description:

Fool your non-goat-cheese-loving friends (or not) with this mild sweetie that reveals minimal goatiness.  Palate-pleasing, semi-firm texture, pretty pale paste, and a mild, vaguely fruity-sweet flavor that’s unlike any Gouda you’ve ever had.

Official description:

Goat Gouda is a semi-hard cheese made from pasteurized goat’s milk and cream, produced by the Central Coast Creamery in Paso Robles, California, US. Firm, dense and smooth textured cheese is slightly grainy with hints of caramel. The rind is hard and natural with ivory colour interior. This nutty and milky flavoured cheese takes about 5 months for maturation.

Havarti (Aged)


Our description:

TERRIBLE in both taste and smell.  Pungent, chemical flavor.  Bitter.  This was very disappointing for me, as Havarti is one of my favorite cheeses.  There were two people with colds who found it benign.  My mother-in-law (who had a cold): “I would eat it.” 


I literally spit it back out


Grocery store description:

This is one Great Dane.  Don’t mistake this Scandinavian gem with a regular Havarti (we should be so lucky), you won’t do it justice.  Washed in brine, it’s full and intense, perfect for slicing and melting on dark bread.

Official description:

Inspired by the Danish cheese making techniques, Havarti is a fresh, semi-soft cheese made using pasteurized cultured milk, cream and natural ingredients. Made by Emmi Roth USA in Wisconsin, the cheese is rich and creamy in flavour. The cheese can be mild to sharp in flavour and buttery depending on its aging. Havarti is a table cheese which can be sliced or grilled and can be served with fruit and wine. Havarti is also available in different flavours.

Until next time, cheese lovers!

Popping (baby) bottles and Paprikash


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I try to post mostly about meals that are simple and stress-free.  I mean, let’s be honest, I love to cook but I’m working with on a budget (both time and money!) and I don’t like to make things difficult for myself.  I do appreciate an occasional challenge, however, and about once every year or two I attempt my grandma’s chicken paprikash and dumplings.  I feel like I make this differently every time, so bear with me.

This time, like every time, I forgot how time-consuming and messy this meal is to make and chose the night Dr. Matthews and I were babysitting our friends’ 6 month old son in addition to taking care of Natalie.  Poor Dr. Matthews ended up changing both of their diapers (multiple times) and feeding them both (which, with our friends’ son, included a bottle and two containers of baby food, which Dr. Matthews has yet to have any experience with).  He was a real trooper about it and didn’t complain once.  He was rewarded handsomely with this amazing dinner, but then had to wash the dishes:

Chicken Paprikash with Dumplings

Ingredients for Chicken Paprikash

  • 4-5lb chicken, disjointed (I used chicken thighs, which was what I had on hand.  I have actually never disjointed a chicken or purchased one this way but with skin and bones things tend to get even messier/difficult to eat so I often avoid this and go skinless/boneless)
  • 1 onion, chopped (I used 1/2 this time since the onions I had were huge)
  • Vegetable or canola oil (photo shows vegetable but I ended up using canola, just my personal preference)
  • 1 tbsp paprika (I ended up using a little more)
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1-2 cups sour cream (depending on how much gravy you want)
  • I also mixed 2 tbsp cornstarch with 1/4 cup water and added it to the gravy at the end to thicken it some)


I used twice this amount of sour cream shown here.


Directions for Chicken Paprikash

Brown onions and spices in a tablespoon oil.  Remove from pan.  In same pan, add 1-2 tablespoons more oil and brown chicken (sprinkled with paprika and salt) in batches, about 5 minutes each side (adding additional oil as needed).  It’s OK if chicken is not quite cooked through.  When done, return onions and chicken to pan and add water.  Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.  Remove chicken from pan.  Combine a few spoonfuls of gravy with sour cream in a seperate bowl to warm sour cream (this avoids curdling) before adding sour cream to gravy.  Add cornstarch and water mixture if you wish to have a thicker sauce.  Add dumplings to gravy and serve over chicken.

   Ingredients for Dumplings

  • 2 1/2 cups of flour, sifted
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp salt

Directions for Dumplings

Blend ingredients together, adding more flour if necessary to make a stiff batter (I ended up adding a bit more).  *Side note: I’ve never sifted flour before for some reason.  It made such a difference in getting the flour to be more fine and “mixable.” Drop by teaspoonfuls into boiling, salted water.  Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Drain and rinse with water. <– This is where things get tricky for me.  It’s impossible to add all the dumplings at the same time, therefore I never know when it’s been 10 minutes.  Furthermore, the dumplings never seem to be completely done on the inside.  Further furthermore, this is a tedious and very time-consuming process that I despise.  And inevitably give up before I’ve boiled all the batter.  God bless my grandma for making all those dumplings over all those years!




Dr. Matthews handling the child care duties

It doesn’t seem like it from reading the directions, but this ends up being a somewhat complicated meal to prepare (at least for me- Grandma will tell you it’s NBD).  It is so worth it, though!